By Patricia Montemurri, Detroit Free Press (TNS)
An Ann Arbor, Mich., Catholic priest has urged his parishioners to arm themselves and attend classes at Christ the King parish to earn a concealed pistol license (CPL).
In a letter sent to Christ the King parishioners recently, the Rev. Edward Fride explained why he believed it was necessary to get concealed pistol licenses because of recent crime in the area. During a Palm Sunday mass last month, Fride announced that the parish would be holding the CPL class.
When some parishioners questioned the decision, Fride sent out a pro-gun letter titled “We’re not in Mayberry Anymore, Toto” — a reference to the 1960s-era Andy Griffith Show and its portrayal of a fictional North Carolina town, as well as Dorothy’s dog from The Wizard of Oz.
“It is very common for Christians to simply assume that they live in Mayberry, trusting that because they know the Lord Jesus, everything will always be fine and nothing bad can happen to them and their families,” Fride wrote.
“How to balance faith, reality, prudence, and trust is one of those critical questions that we struggle with all our lives. Pretending we are in Mayberry, while we are clearly not, can have very negative consequences for ourselves and those we love, especially those we have a responsibility to protect. If we are not in Mayberry, is there a real threat?”
Fride told parishioners in the letter that Catholic teachings do not preclude carrying a gun for self-defense and to defend others. Fride then asserted that crime is up and that because of budget cuts, “there has been a significant reduction in the availability of an armed police response.”
Fride could not be reached for comment Monday. But Michael Diebold, a spokesman for the Diocese of Lansing which oversees the Ann Arbor parish, confirmed Monday that the controversial letter had been sent.
“Yes, it appears that ‘We’re Not in Mayberry Anymore, Toto!’ was sent out to the parishioners of Christ the King by their pastor, Fr. Ed Fride,” Diebold wrote in an email to the Free Press.
Guns and gun lessons do not belong in a Catholic church, Lansing Catholic Bishop Earl Boyea stressed in a statement after they learned about Fride’s letter from the Free Press.
Boyea “has never given permission for anyone to carry a concealed weapon in a church or school in the Diocese of Lansing,” said a statement released by Diebold.
“Additionally, Bishop Boyea further states that Concealed Pistol License classes are inappropriate activities to be held on Church property,” wrote Diebold.
Diebold said the Lansing diocese’s ban on weapons in church makes them “gun-free zones” and extends to those who want to practice “open carry” of weapons in full view. He added that public or professional security “provide for public safety on church property.”
Diebold referred to a 2012 statement by the Lansing bishop.
“We are followers of Jesus Christ, who raised not a hand against those who mocked, tortured, and finally murdered him,” Boyea said in 2012. “While we grasp both the Second Amendment and the legitimate right of some persons to defend themselves, our churches and our schools are dedicated to a far different approach to life’s problems.”
In the Mayberry letter, Fride wrote that he was worried about students at nearby Father Gabriel Richard High School in Ann Arbor, and pointed to a recent incident near the school.
“The fact that two active shooters got within yards of Father Gabriel Richard before they were taken down by SWAT demonstrates that the threat is real. This druggie couple from Detroit stole a car and it broke down at Plymouth and Dixboro. They went through the woods and had almost reached the high school when they were stopped,” wrote Fride.
“There is zero security at the high school. Had the shooters got in, we would have had our own Columbine,” wrote Fride, a reference to the shooting massacre at a Colorado high school in 1999.
A CPL class was held at the church recently by a suburban Detroit police officer, Fride wrote in the letter. Fride said the officer told parishioners “that because more Detroiters are protecting themselves, more of the criminals are now targeting the suburbs…”
“That same officer from the CPL class personally thanked me for having the parish do this class and expressed a hope that more would follow suit, because having law abiding citizens armed makes their job as police so much better,” Fride wrote in the letter.
Fride said some parishioners told him they were afraid of carrying weapons.
“Several people have said to me, I’m afraid of guns. My response to one woman was, ‘Well, how do you feel about rape?” wrote Fride.
Fride’s friend, Jay McNally, said the priest is a beloved pastor, a martial arts practitioner whose sermons bring parishioners to tears.
“It is a rare day that one finds a priest so well-loved by parishioners at every level – the old folks, the young folks,” said McNally, a former editor of the Detroit archdiocese’s Michigan Catholic newspaper and conservative Catholic activist who is the director of the Ypsilanti-based Citizens Alliance for Life and Liberty.
McNally said Fride has served at the parish for about 20 years, and also was the chaplain for young men considering the priesthood at Ave Maria College, when the college started by Domino’s Pizza founder and traditional Catholic activist Tom Monaghan was located in Ann Arbor. Christ the King Parish has strong ties to traditional, conservative Catholics.
“He’s a priest factory,” said McNally, describing Fride’s service as an inspiration to many young men considering the priesthood.
“Father Ed quite frequently travels around the country and to be the chaplain for people in the military who die in service,” said McNally. “He’s in high demand for that.”
“This whole gun thing is kind of new. He has become very vocal about it,” said McNally. “There isn’t a phony bone in him.
In his letter, Fride explained how he grew up a pacifist and was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. He converted to Catholicism. He wrote that he veered away from pacifism when he asked himself questions of “what would Jesus do?” were he to come across women and children being harmed.
“I eventually concluded that I was certainly no longer a pacifist absolutist,” wrote Fride. “There were situations in which I would actively intervene, even to a lethal level if necessary.”
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